Speaker Series 2016: Whoops! Fossil Faux Pas!

While humans have been misidentifying fossils for thousands of years, right back to the primitive Britons with their Devil’s toenails (Gryphea bivalves), fairie hearts (heart urchins), and petrified serpents (ammonites), there are certain horrendous mistakes that the palaeontological community will never forget. Some are quite intentional, where fake fossils have been created to deceive innocent collectors and scientists; in other cases, a particular fossil has been completely misinterpreted as representing a different type of animal or even turned out not to be a fossil at all. Sometimes the animal has been reconstructed with parts of the body upside down, back to front or, in extreme cases, with the wrong head. Finally, there are times when an innocent fossil has been used to promote particular agendas or ideologies.

This talk counts down the top twelve fossil failures over two-hundred years and includes everything from Piltdown Man to plesiosaur heads, chimeric dinosaurs to Charnia. Prepare to be astonished by the audacity, gullibility, and simple carelessness of the people that have made those fossil misidentifications.


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